ko te manaaki i ngā kaihākinakina | caring for New Zealand's sports community
Image from Ethnic Diversity Think Tank

Ethnic Diversity Think Tank

Enroy Talamahina and Rebecca Hawkins represented SCNZ at AUT Sports Performance Research Institute’s Ethnic Diversity Think Tank.

Ethnic Diversity in NZ

Professor Paul Spoonley began with the changing demographics in our country, which are most seen in Auckland. According to Spoonley, Auckland is the fourth most diverse city in the world. NZ has low births, rising immigration, and patterns of ethnic concentration, especially in Auckland. As a result, he thinks that in ten years ethnic Asians will outnumber Māori, and those aged over 65 will outnumber those aged under 16. In short, we are getting ‘older and browner’.

In response to the growth in ethnic diversity, sports need to think about cultural and religious expectations, such as:

  • the importance of festivals such as Ramadan;
  • the role of women;
  • standards of dress;
  • language;
  • the priority of sport relative to work, school, and the arts;
  • familiarity with different types of sport;
  • concerns about risk.


Following this, NZ Rugby talked about including more Pacific people in leadership. Fifteen percent of players in NZ are Pasifika, and in Auckland it is 49%, yet this is not seen in management.

They have learnt that their current (western) leadership style is based on individuals, expectations, processes and formality; while Pacific leadership is more about relationships, service, family and distributed responsibility. NZ Rugby also recognises that ‘Pasifika’ is not one single culture, but includes many cultures.

Rugby has set up a cultural intelligence programme, as well as targeted leadership and mentoring.


Auckland Cricket is focusing on those from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It is well-known that many people from these countries love cricket, but low numbers are playing in Auckland. However, many of these groups play cricket informally with makeshift equipment and modified rules.

Auckland Cricket has set up an advisory group. They have also placed ethnic development officers into some of their clubs. Through this they have reached over 2,000 people.

They also want to reach out to the Samoan community, as well as to refugees. They want to promote kilikiti (Polynesian style cricket) in schools, and to offer more modified forms of the game.


Tracy Atiga from Auckland Basketball Services Ltd (ABSL) spoke next. Their vision is of a ‘vibrant and inclusive basketball community’. One thing they have started is a Friday evening mixed social league, which includes music as well as food. This has allowed them to connect with different groups, and to bring them into the basketball community.


ActivAsian is part of Harbour Sport (North Harbour). It began in 2009, with a focus on Chinese and Koreans on the North Shore. Over time their thinking has shifted from:

How do we get the Asian community to join us?


How do we become a part of the Asian community?

They have learnt that, to bring Asians into sport, they need to go out to where Asians are. As a result, they help run Asian community events and make sport a part of them. One thing they are most proud of is seeing Chinese families join rugby clubs. ‘It may not seem like much, but it is such a big step for Chinese parents!’ said speaker Jenny Lim.

What does this mean for us?

SCNZ National Director Phil Pawley spent 20 years living in the UK. When he returned to NZ in 2006, the changes in ethnic diversity were very clear to him. He says we need to think about how to be accessible and relevant to all ethnicities.
‘We are seeking to be intentional about serving ethnic groups, and recruiting chaplains from among them,’ he says. ‘Cultural intelligence is part of our training. This includes how to work sensitively with those of different religions and of no particular faith.

‘We need to be alert to new forms of sport being brought to our shores, and to less traditional sports already played here. We also need to think about how to offer chaplaincy in informal sporting environments.
‘Every culture has something to bring to the mix in sport, just as in the rest of life.  Are we willing to manaaki people, welcoming all so that they find their place in our society through the unifying effect of sport?’
Author Info

Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca is the Communications and IT Manager for Sports Chaplaincy NZ. In her younger days she played cricket and football with great enthusiasm but very little skill. Now she spends a lot of time supporting her four sons in their sport. She especially loves scoring their cricket matches, which she insists on doing the old fashioned way, with pen and paper.

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